With the New Year about to kick off, you may be mulling over what you accomplished in the last year and what’s still on your to-do list. Earlier this year, I became frustrated because there were so many days I physically couldn’t finish my to-do list. I knew I needed new tools and education, so I sought out productivity experts to help me. Here’s the best of what I learned and that worked for me this year:
1) Don’t open email for first 60 minutes at desk – Instead, I now use my first hour for my most important task that day. (One marketer I shared this tip with said it’s been the single biggest productivity enhancer he’s implemented in his entire career!) I begin each day with a huge sense of accomplishment.
2) I use a 5-choice decision model on everything I touch during the day:
c. Take immediate action
d. File for follow-up
e. Put in a reference file
Notice there is no “do it later” pile! That pile (and boy did I have one!) turned out to be decisions not made! I also tackled my nasty pile 27 minutes at a time until it was gone.
3) Clear my desk before leaving the office. Starting in the morning with a
clear desk is like getting a fresh slate. No distractions and no guilt.
4) Hard schedule no more than half the work hours in each day. This leaves the other half of my day free for all the things that come up. (Huge help to me!)
5) Write my to-do list only for a single day – no running list. Turns out that long running list that never got fully done was sapping my energy. My new daily short list completed all in one day is invigorating. It’s achievement. The only way this works so I don’t lose track of things to be done in subsequent days is I file notes on any task that won’t be done same day. I use folders for subsequent days (I keep 31 individual file folders handy in my right hand drawer for each day of the month plus files for each month. Have my Outlook email set up same way.)
6) Analyze what wasn’t getting done on my daily to-do list. I found my
worst mistake was underestimating the amount of time needed for various projects. Once I started tracking how long things actually took (which was about double what I would estimate), I gained controlled of my time and actually get my daily to-do list done on most days.
I hope you find these tips to be a blessing during end-of-year crunch and holiday stress.